Rowland Hill

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Disambiguation: This article is about the postal service pioneer. For the General and Viscount, see Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill. For Sir Rowland Hill (d. 1783), see Hawkstone Park.


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Rowland Hill

Rowland Hill (December 3, 1795 - August 27, 1879) is the man usually credited with the invention of the modern postal service.

He was born at Kidderminster in Worcestershire (where his statue still stands) and for a time he was a teacher. Hill published his most famous pamphlet Post Office Reform: its Importance and Practicability in 1837, when he was 42. Hill wrote in his reform plan about the need for official pre-printed envelopes and adhesive postage stamps as alternative ways of getting the sender to pay for the postage - which at that time was optional. He also called for a uniform low rate of one penny per half-ounce a letter to anywhere in the British Isles. His idea was proposed at a government inquiry on February 13, 1837.

Previously, postage had depended on distance and the number of sheets of paper; now one penny could assure delivery of an envelope and the letter it enclosed anywhere in the country provided together they satisfied the weight condition.

This was a lower rate than before, when the cost of postage was usually more than 4d. The reform did not settle the issue of who paid for the postage as it still remained optional for a number of years in spite of Hill's efforts as Secretary to the Post Office to alter the situation.

The lower cost made postal communication more affordable to the increasing numbers of people capable of reading and writing as a consequence of public education.

The uniform penny postage was inaugurated with a postage-prepaid envelope (on the face of which was a printed elaborately pictorial illustration to discourage counterfeiting) on 10 January 1840, four months before stamps were issued on 6 May 1840. During the 1840īs he lived at Bruce Castle at Tottenham, which is now a local History Museum including exhibits on Rowland Hill.

Rowland Hill is buried in Highgate Cemetery located in Highgate, London. There is also the Rowland Hill Award which is named after him.

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